There is nothing like sinking into the comfortable world of literature where fantasy worlds come to life as reality fades from around you. The reading medium shouldn’t matter as long as the story is good and the author’s words flow off the page and into your soul. However when it comes to choosing between books and ebooks for your collection, the decision becomes hard.
It took me years before I even attempted reading an ebook. There just were too many fond memories of hiding away behind a couch with a good print book (yes behind the couch, so nobody could find me to disturb me!).
Print books are full of sensory experience. The feel of pages under my fingertips; crisp and smooth with new books, papery and creased with old books. The lovely musty smell of ancient tomes stored away in boxes at relatives houses, awaiting discovery by my inquisitive 11 year old self. The excitement and surprise at finding old, worn books, enjoyed by others which I had yet to read. Even the tears, dried food and other unidentifiable stains throughout dog-eared pages were precious to me.
One of the many bookshelves in the house
My love for books even runs in the family. My uncle and I swap dog eared books back and forth, re-reading favourites until we find our own copies in used book stores. My gran reads. My mother reads. I would fight with my brothers over book ownership. Browsing used bookshops for treasures. Sitting in a library, surrounded by books. Sitting in a massive cafe-bookshop in Portland, Oregon, not once feeling out of place when crossing my legs and sitting on the floor to read (everyone else was doing it!).
My print books will be around even after some futuristic EMF wipes out all electronics, leaving computers and devices dead. Long after the Internet is a faded memory, my books will remain. Maybe the post-apocalyptic world won’t happen in my lifetime, but I have read too many sci-fi books to discount the possibility unfortunately.
Owning so many print books does have its drawbacks however. Just ask my family, who have had to help me move houses countless times. Common complaints have included “Is it just me or do you have more boxes labelled Books than you did last time?” and “You have too many books!”. Uh… yeah sure. No such thing as too many books!!! There is the maintenance, keeping all the moths and roaches out of bookshelves. Keeping mice and silverfish out of book boxes. Running out of bookshelf space. Running out of house space for bookshelves. Trying to find the fifth book in a series that is not where it should be. Library organisation and management takes some creativity. Losing books lent out because you can’t remember who borrowed them. I even once managed to lose an entire series and still to this day, have not come across the print books to re-read it.
Why would I want to give all that up for some sterilised screen device?
I didn’t discover the delight of ebooks until one night in bed I was playing with my iPhone in the dark waiting for sleep to come. I wanted to read but the bedside lamp was busted and it was far too cold to get in and out of bed for the light switch and a book. To my delight there were heaps of free ebooks available off Amazon and Project Gutenberg. I was off and reading within minutes.
Here's Luck by Lennie Lower on iPhone
It didn’t take me long to discover that reading in the dark using a black background with dimmed grey text was gentler on the eyes than a table lamp and a print book. It was also much easier to hold my iPhone for hours on end, lending to less strenous reading marathons. Every time I finished a book, I took great pleasure in immediately downloading another and was reading in seconds without getting up (what can I say, I’m lazy).
While these free ebooks were a great way to pass the time, there was nothing particularly appealing about buying ebooks. I knew about DRM and realised it was pointless to pay for an ebook if I was going to be restricted in how I could use my legitimate purchases. Imagine paying hundreds for books that could just go *poof* if a publisher or bookstore shut down. What a waste!
It didn’t take long for my ebooks to end up everywhere, cluttering up my devices. I had so many different ereader apps and books spread out over them that I was on the verge of giving up.
Calibre saved the day, giving me the eLibrary I needed to keep and organise my ebooks. Furthermore, I soon discovered Calibre could remove DRM, making the purchase of ebooks viable. Now I could make full use of my ebooks, and on whatever reader or device I wanted. I was sold. However, if the world's electronics get zapped, ebook owners are going to be left holding the short straw.
In the end, I decided it was best to have a mix. After all some books just cannot be read in ebook format - House of Leaves is one such book. There are also books too valuable to be lost to an EMP such as ones which impart information on how to be self sufficient for example. Ebooks remain the best way to consume large amounts of fiction in a short time given the availability of free material out there. The best of the best can always be put on the print book to-buy list.